January 11, 2018 Read More →

PREPA Failure to Distribute Grid-Repair Equipment ‘Borders on Criminal Act’

The Intercept:

On Saturday, a day after becoming aware of a massive store of rebuilding materials being held by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the U.S. federal government — the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with their security detail — entered a Palo Seco warehouse owned by the public utility to claim and distribute the equipment, according to a spokesperson for the Corps.

Rumors of a tense standoff had been circulating on the island, but the encounter was confirmed to The Intercept in a statement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Asked if the federal officers were armed when they entered the warehouse, USACE spokesperson Luciano Vera said they were indeed accompanied by security detail and quickly began distributing the material after seizing it. Vera declined to say whether there was a confrontation at the entrance, saying only that PREPA officials ultimately toured the warehouse along with the feds:

Leadership responsible for restoring the Puerto Rico power grid and their security detail toured the warehouse in cooperation with PREPA. USACE conducted a full inventory and immediately sent out critical materials to contractors at work sites. USACE will continue to distribute critical materials from the site to contractors. The hope is to strengthen the partnership between PREPA and its restoration partners, while increasing visibility of the inventory of all materials on the island. PREPA has invited FEMA and the Corps to visit its warehouses anytime and to distribute material as needed.

The armed encounter comes as around half of Puerto Ricans still remain without electricity well over 100 days after Hurricane Maria.

PREPA did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment, though in a statement to the Associated Press, it rejected allegations that it had failed to distribute the warehouse’s contents. The AP only reported that “officials over the weekend also discovered some needed materials in a previously overlooked warehouse owned by Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority.”

Sen. Eduardo Bhatia, minority leader of the Senate of Puerto Rico, provided a statement to The Intercept on the hoarded electrical equipment: “The news that has come out today about the discovery made by armed federal agents of thousands of electrical spare parts hidden in an PREPA warehouse borders on a criminal act by its managers. It is time for people to stand up and demand answers. Hundreds of thousands of families have been in the dark for more than 125 days, people keep dying, and businesses continue to close due to the lack of energy while the necessary spare parts were in the possession of PREPA. Lying about not having the parts to cover the inefficiency of PREPA is outrageous and those responsible must be taken before st ate and federal authorities to be criminally processed immediately.”

More: https://theintercept.com/2018/01/10/puerto-rico-electricity-prepa-hurricane-maria/

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